Privileges reduced for Utah State Prison inmates participating in hunger strike

Posted at 7:44 PM, Aug 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-05 09:03:27-04

DRAPER, Utah — Privileges were reduced, Tuesday, for the 42 Utah State Prison inmates participating in a hunger strike that started last week.

The inmates, all documented gang members, are housed in the Uinta 2 maximum-security unit. The reduction of privileges is a standard consequence for acts that are disruptive to the operation of the facility or jeopardize safety and security, according to a press release from the Utah Department of Corrections.

Loss of privileges vary from inmate to inmate. Losses include personal television privileges, a decrease in the amount they may spend each week on commissary or what they may buy and removal of some property from their cells, such as commissary or televisions, according to the release.

On Tuesday, some inmates were not cooperative as officers began meeting with them to discuss their loss of privileges.

Several inmates covered their cell-door windows with paper, refused to submit to handcuffs, which is necessary for officers to safely enter the cells, and broke sprinklers in the cells causing flooding, the release indicated.

“Also on Tuesday, two inmates began fighting within their cell,” the release states. “The five inmates involved in these incidents are being moved to the prison’s highest security unit as a result of destruction of property, fighting and failure to follow orders.”

Meal trays continued to be offered to inmates at regularly scheduled times since the inmates started refusing them Friday.

On Tuesday, four inmates accepted a breakfast tray and two inmates with pre-existing health conditions were offered and accepted nutritional drinks.

“Many of the inmates had stockpiled Commissary food prior to engaging in the hunger strike and are consuming those items,” the release states. “In addition, 16 inmates had placed orders last week for Commissary items that were delivered Monday. Those items include noodle soup, candy bars, chips, canned refried beans, tortillas, coffee, cookies and pastries and packaged sausage.”

While clinical services and mental health employees continue to meet with inmates, most have refused health checks. Correctional officers are also checking on the inmates in their cells every 30 minutes.

The strike started on Friday when the inmates provided a letter to the Utah Department of Corrections, which listed six demands, including the relocation of gang leaders currently housed in one of the maximum-security units.

Officials have not specified what the other demands were but the department has met with advocacy groups and inmates to talk a about new inmate classification system, ways to increase out-of-cell time and more access to programming opportunities from maximum-security inmates, the release states.

“That work continues despite the unproductive action these inmates have taken,” the release states.